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Thursday, March 09, 2017, 7:20 AM 4:34 PM

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A Second Chance at Life: Surviving COVID-19 One Year Ago

In March 2020, 51-year-old Zubin Ingah began feeling ill just as he started hearing about COVID-19. With body aches setting in, he made his way to the doctor’s office, only to be told he most likely had the flu. “A couple of days later I started to develop a very bad and powerful fever,” Ingah recalled, and his symptoms were only getting worse. “I realized I wasn’t able to taste the oatmeal that my wife would make me. And when I would eat, my body would throw it back up,” he said. 
For Ingah, getting sick is more dangerous because he has a condition called Ulcerative Colitis (UC). He takes a medication that suppresses his immune system to help control UC; however, the medication makes it easier for Ingah to catch other illnesses. Ingah had a second appointment, but again was not tested for COVID-19. His symptoms got worse and his wife took him to an emergency room.  The next day he and his wife decided he should go to National Jewish Health. 

“Even though Zubin’s immune system was suppressed, he seemed to live a fairly normal life. So it was highly concerning that he had a high fever and was very sick,” said. Vasmi Gunter, MD, a pulmonologist at National Jewish Health. Before being tested for COVID-19, Ingah told Dr. Guntur that his coworker had recently returned from Japan and had been home sick with a fever for weeks. This information, mixed with his symptoms, caused Dr. Guntur to administer a COVID-19 swab test and admit Ingah to Saint Joseph Hospital immediately.

“The staff at Saint Joseph Hospital took me in, and they were very prepared. They actually swabbed my nostrils again, just so they had another set of tests,” Ingah explained. Ingah first received Tylenol and a small amount of oxygen, said Tracy Prock, MD, a critical care hospitalist at Saint Joseph Hospital. The hope was that this would help Ingah begin to feel better. 

“Over the course of the next few hours, though, he went from needing just a little oxygen to needing a high flow oxygen mask,” Dr. Prock said. Not long after, his condition further declined and Dr. Prock placed him on a ventilator (intubuated) and in a medically induced coma. His COVID-19 tests also had come back positive. 

In the ICU, Jake Woodrow, MD, a critical care pulmonologist at National Jewish Health and Saint Joseph Hospital, took over Ingah’s care. “At the time, he was unique because he was younger than most COVID patients, at age 51, and he seemed like a healthy guy,” Dr. Woodrow said. “Our main concern while he was intubated was that he has UC.” Dr. Woodrow and his team provided every treatment known to help Ingah recover.

Eight days after being intubated, Ingah was taken off the ventilator and brought out of his medically induced coma. “I don’t think I could have gone to a better place for my treatment,” Ingah said. “My wife told me that the staff at Saint Joseph Hospital were really good at updating her about what was going on with me. That support and care is something that I will always hold dear in my heart,” he said. 

After being discharged from Saint Joseph Hospital, Ingah continued to receive follow-up care at the Post COVID-19 Recovery Clinic at National Jewish Health. 

Today -- one year from his first COVID-19 symptoms -- Ingah says he is forever grateful for the care he received. “The folks at National Jewish Health and Saint Joseph Hospital were phenomenal. Everybody wanted to help me get better. It was one of the most precious experiences I have had.”